Updated February 2018
After nearly a year of trying out many art materials, sketch kit setups and bags, in 2012 I simplified my system to one bag (and the occasional ultra-minimalist kit). I update this page regularly to reflect my current favorite materials, but products I used previously are stored as an Archive for a personal record. If you saw something here before that is no longer here, check the Archive page.
Please see the posts below for my reviews or commentary of some products listed below. This list is much shorter than it used to be because I realized that many products had not been my favorites in a long time, but they were still on the list. To keep this page relevant as my "current favorites," I deleted them, but reviews for all products can still be found by using the "Product Review" label or by using the search box at right to search for the specific product name:Sailor fude ("bent" nib) fountain pen
A Word (or Two) on Brushes
Comments on various watercolor papers
Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle water-soluble pencils
Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen fountain pen
Comparison of three waterproof inks
Comparison of seven (hairy) brush pens
Comparison of seven (non-hairy) brush pens
Stillman & Birn Softcovers: New and Improved
Waterproof and refillable non-hairy brush pens
Comparison of water-soluble colored pencils and techniques
Reviews of six colored pencil brands
Tran Portfolio Pencil Case
|My Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag has sketched with me on |
Here are other related posts that you might find interesting:Tina's 2016 Top 10
Tina's 2015 Top 10
Tina's 2014 Top 10
Tina's 2013 Top 10
Tina's 2012 Top 10
Tina's Bottom 10 (including reasons for detesting these products)
The Sketch Bag: An Update
My Bag Gets 15 Minutes of Fame
What I Learned About Travel Sketching (2013)
More Things I Learned About Travel Sketching (2014)
The Hand Bookbinding Groove (my bookbinding process)
Lightfastness is a Philosophical Issue (and a Longevity Test of Zig Markers)
The Search for the Holy Grail Continues (seeking the perfect travel sketch bag)
Hooked on Handbound Sketchbooks (my post on the global Urban Sketchers blog)
Epic Pen Search and Discovery (my multi-part series on my search for the Grail of variable-line-width fountain pen nibs)
The Grail Has Landed: Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen (the result of my search)
Colored Pencils Are Taking Over (why I prefer them to markers)
What I've Learned from Field Notes
How Many Colored Pencils Do You Really Need?
Sketch Kit Diet: Lighter, Slimmer, More Essential
(Note: For your convenience, I’ve included links to online resources for my favorite art supplies, but please shop around for the best value. I am not affiliated with any of these retailers and will not receive a kickback, even though I should, since I give them so much of my money.)
|This waterproof version of the Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag is my wet-season bag. It's the same size and style as the original -- just a different fabric.|
Since 2012, I've been using a "small" size Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag, carried with me at all times the way I used to carry my purse, containing the following tools and materials:
- Pentel sign pen (a hard-tipped brush pen). I change out the brush pen frequently, so this one is not necessarily a favorite, though I do like it. The Pentel has water-soluble ink, which is nice for fast and easy shading. But now that I’m back to using water-soluble colored pencils, I’ll probably switch to one with waterproof ink. I also like to switch between real (“hairy”) brush tips and formed “non-hairy” tips, because each has benefits (and drawbacks). The Copic Gasenfude is a favorite hairy one containing waterproof ink. See the post on my favorites in all categories for details. Diet tip: I used to carry four brush pens – two hairy (one with waterproof ink, one with water-soluble ink), and two non-hairy (one with waterproof ink, one with water-soluble ink). Now I make a choice and carry only one.
- Two Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen fountain pens, one with waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink (very waterproof and non-clogging) and one with water-soluble Sailor Doyou ink (fast drying). These have been my stable, consistent pen-and-ink combos for several years now. For variety, I occasionally rotate in my Franklin-Christoph with fude nib, but it’s not a sketch kit standard.
- Faber-Castell Pitt Artist brush marker in warm gray. I like it because it’s waterproof and is handy for quick shading on both white and toned papers.
- Two Kuretake waterbrushes with the largest and smallest tips.
- An emptied hand sanitizer bottle that I’ve filled with water for spritzing (see my demo for one technique I use).
- A low-quality traditional brush that I use only to spread water that I’ve sprayed onto paper.
- A white Gelly Roll gel pen. I use it for sharp highlights on red or toned paper and whenever I need to write white signage lettering.
- A white Hester & Cook Midtown grease pencil. Unlike most grease pencils, this one can be sharpened with a sharpener, so I can get a good point on it. But I sometimes use a traditional white colored pencil, too. Its purpose is for subtle highlights (especially nice for skin and other rounded surfaces) when using toned or red paper. (If I’m not carrying either a toned or red sketchbook, I take it out of my kit.)
- A Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble carbon pencil. I also use water-soluble graphite pencils in a soft grade (the ArtGraf 6B is a favorite), but this carbon pencil has the darkest darks I’ve ever seen when activated with water. It also doesn’t have the shiny look of graphite.
- A Blackwing pencil with the softest (ungraded) core. I swap this out frequently with other soft-core pencils – usually 4B or softer. Other favorites are the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni in 4B or 6B and the Gekkoso 8B.
- An ever-changing palette of water-soluble colored pencils (mostly Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle). Right now I’m carrying 14 colors, but as you can see, my Tran Portfolio pencil case still has a few slots to spare. I always add one or two specialty colors when I travel (based on what I see in photos of the place I’m visiting). My goal is to carry no more than 18 colors under any circumstance, which would fill all the slots in the Tran Portfolio.
Now, the sketchbooks:
- A self-made signature – four sheets of 9-by-12-inch Canson XL 140-pound watercolor paper folded in half and stitched with a temporary cover. This is my daily-carry sketchbook. When I have filled six of these signatures, I bind them together with Coptic stitch. This is the lightest, thinnest, self-supported sketchbook I have found containing paper I can use with any media – but I have to make it myself. It’s a small price to pay for getting all my needs met.
- Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook in the 5½-by-8 ½-inch size. Except for the two-month period when I challenged myself with a minimal sketch kit, the S&B books are not my daily-carry. I keep a variety of books with different papers (Alpha, Beta, Epsilon and Nova) on my desk for use on still lives and other experiments in the studio. I also take one 8 ½-by-5½-inch softcover landscape-format Beta book when I travel, since that tends to be when I use a landscape format most often.
- and 4. Field Notes notebook. I always carry one, most often a red Sweet Tooth edition, but occasionally others for variety, like the slightly larger Signature edition. This is handy for quick, perhaps discreetly made sketches of people on public transportation or other situations when I don’t necessarily need or want my full-size sketchbook.
When fitness-walking, I never used to take sketching gear of any kind. But ever since I wanted to capture an elusive gray heron I spotted at Green Lake, I’ve been taking my ultra-minimalist sketch kit.
|Travelon bag and contents (photo updated 9/16)|
This kit is currently housed in a Travelon Convertible Travel Wallet, which has (though barely) enough space for my smart phone, wallet and keys too, so it’s actually a serviceable bag. It contains:
- A Pilot Petit1 Mini fountain pen filled with water-soluble ink (see my blog post about why this rarely used pen is ideal for keeping in this bag)
- A red Field Notes notebook
- A brush pen (varies)
- A white Gelly Roll pen
- Eyeglasses (with a dedicated space in the bag, the all-important glasses are no longer forgotten)